Live Free, Play Hard: The Week’s Finest Free Indie Games

By Porpentine on February 17th, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

THIS WEEK: Queer edutainment. Clickless Twine. “As you are paralyzed with pain he punches you so hard that your head explodes.”.

 

 

Even Cowgirls Bleed by Christine Love

Even Cowgirls Bleed turns your cursor into the shaky aim of a trigger-happy, bullet-incontinent country girl set on making her way to the big city. This is one of the most interesting uses of shooting as a verb I’ve seen since that other queer text shooter. In this case, the goal isn’t to solve a puzzle so much as to be acutely aware of your own clumsiness in the most hilarious way possible.

And my god, this is beautiful, have you ever seen a Twine like this? A mouse-driven text adventure with no clicking, just gliding, and the dusty descent of the page–!!!

People are becoming increasingly aware that Twine’s bare bones can be skinned and muscled with CSS/Javascript (in other words, a rich, powerful history accessible to most, not a custom language or limited set of plug-ins), and the results are fantastic. Text has a dry reputation but the stuff I’ve seen in the last year is so alive and expressive. As we paint our words and set traps in our paragraphs, we approach the diverse vocabulary of graphical games.

 

 

You Will Select a Decision, № 2: Cow Farming Activities on the Former West by Brendan Patrick Hennessy

Another installment of the highly educational You Will Select a Decision series, just switch the cold Kyrgyzian forest for the sweltering desert of Wyoming. With the flipclick of a page, you too can engage in traditional American pastimes like lizard gambling, water finding, and horse encouragement!

This installment is especially labyrinthian–there’s just so much, so many co-existing realities. To repeat myself, it’s more than funny (although it is really funny), it’s interesting–so many flourishes of imagination and language, the structure of English taken to illogically logical extremes.

If you die instantly, turn to page 92.
If you die right away, turn to page 90.

 

SWIFT☆STITCH by Sophie Houlden

A triangle flies horizontally through the barren atmosphere of a 2D world. For millennia, basic shapes have attempted to survive in brutal geometric environments, guided only by the mysterious god known as the Player. It will die hundreds of times before it reaches the end of its migration, at which point the world reforms to become even more brutal. The triangle does not complain. It has no mouth.

You have a few amendments to your default velocity. Hold Control to fly vertically. Press Space for a burst of slow motion. Along the way, colored lines change your direction or add spin to your movement.

Lovely details:

Sparks fly when you graze the walls, a daredevil aesthetic that leaves you feeling a near-collision, and, if you’re like me, perversely trying to cut each corner as closely as possible.

Guidelines project from your avatar so you can angle in on bonus crystals.

When you drop into slow motion, the music shifts perfectly to become tranquil drugged neo-Miami hotel muzak (whatever that means).

 

 

Positive Space by merritt kopas

Simultaneously a story about a powerful sexual experience and a guide to a rare, underground sex technique. Some say the Inguinal Canals are a place of great riches but also great danger. Do you dare cut past the legends and discover the truth about basic body parts that people don’t talk about for some reason?

Exciting to think of all the secret zones we contain, the locked away possibilities of sensation. We get so jaded, then it’s like, what the fuck, there’s all this hidden shit my body can do.

 

 

AND THE ROBOT HORSE YOU RODE IN ON by Anna Anthropy

The Wild West. 2100 A.D. Cyborg horses, stolen cred-chips, and sexy banditas. Buried up to your neck in sand. You’ll die here unless you spin a good tale about where you hid the loot, but how you spin is up to you. Was it at the robo farm? The graveyard? The power crystal mine?

A brutal breakup told through the medium of scifi Western pulp, with all the adventure and drama that implies. The glare of sunlight against text never looked so good.

 

Inner Vision by Sunil

A cigarette-smoking skeleton challenges you to talk three depressed strangers out of suicide. That’s it. Uurrgh, weepy emotions bubbled up while playing.

This is so earnest and simple. It can’t pretend to be a perfect picture of a subject this big, but it is about listening, and that matters.

 

 

400 Years by Scriptwelder

400 Years is a tranquil game about the slow march of a stone golem with only four hundred years to avert a disaster. This is about waiting, about watching the seasons blur. Wait until the water turns to ice so you can walk across, wait until trees grow so you can climb them.

Some parts were hard for me to figure out but I ended up getting through with 127 years to spare.

 

 

Depression Quest by Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey, Isaac Schankler

Belying the name, Depression Quest isn’t a superficial treatment, some typical set of mechanics with mental health terminology pasted on, and neither is it an abstract set of impressions.

It is, shockingly enough, about the realities of depression (although it is careful to stipulate that no depiction of depression is perfect) with a focus on methodically representing the internal life of the sufferer as they go about their day. It is concerned with things like answering a late night IM from a concerned friend, letting a cat into your life, or just being able to get out of bed.

This internal focus is important because people with depression are punished twice–first by themselves, then by other people.

The pathetic, deformed social responses of the depression sufferer, instead of being taken as mustered up brave gifts, are attributed to malice or disdain. People grow irate at the way time flows differently in that black hole of the mind, the numbing disconnect from the outside world. They don’t always understand that revealing our problems can mean trading a strangling silence for loss of agency, for stigma.

Games like this are a way to fight back against these harms, a means to acknowledge the depth of our inner hells. Depression is an extremely lonely disease; seeing ourselves in media can be a way to wake up and realize we aren’t alone.

, .

76 Comments »

  1. Tretiak says:

    Two more recommendations:

    Dungelot (roguelike) http://indieplague.blogspot.com/2013/02/dungelot-2012.html

    One Night (survival horror) http://indieplague.blogspot.com/2013/02/one-night-2009.html

  2. Greggh says:

    Text games! (meh)

    Aside from Depression Quest none of these really jangled my (gaming) nerves enough to make a point.

  3. LionsPhil says:

    So what’s with all the games about misery recently?

    Get enough of that in reality, thankyouverymuch. Leave my happy place to the jetpacks and exploding cows.

    • Tacroy says:

      Holidays. People feel miserable / left out / abandoned / hate their family during the last half of December, publish these games based on their feelings in January-ish, and they gain traction about now.

    • Eclipse says:

      the hell is going on with RPS? I linked a *FREE* game I made and my comment got removed…
      you get a mention only if you do a queerweird game I suppose : And then they even remove links to games? why? :( Not even Kotaku do that, and that thing is much bigger.

      I suppose we can only comment the games that are up for this week without talking about other free games because it’s like, spam?

      • Jim Rossignol says:

        There’s no record of your comment, Eclipse. It’s neither been deleted nor spammed, so it seems like it was never posted?

        • Eclipse says:

          oh thanks.. that’s really weird! I post quite regularly and it never happened before, I could wear I saw my comment posted, but maybe I hallucinated then. I’ve also mailed Porpentine but got no reply so far, I admit it’s just a little stupid game, but I’d love to share it with other RPS readers :)
          It’s my first flash game sponsored as exclusive license, so unluckily I cannot upload it on newgrounds or something like that, but here it is: http://www.freeonlinegames.com/game/counter-terror
          I’ll be honored if you happen to find the time to try it Jim

          • Jim Rossignol says:

            The site timed out a couple of times for me this evening, I think it might be a little poorly. Will check with tech later.

          • Berzee says:

            I posted a comment that went missing earlier too (something about playing Hitman Blood Money through Core Online, on another article) so I think it’s just Internet Gremlins =P

          • Eclipse says:

            those little bastards D:

          • Pointy says:

            Hi!
            I would just like to say that this game is awesome.

            Loved it!

            Is there any way to get a standalone version (to play fullscreen in flashplayer)?

            I would gladly throw money at you for that honour.

            Best regards,

            Pointy.

          • Geen says:

            Fantastic! I love the art, and the humor was a great touch. Also, Escape From New York reference.

          • Premium User Badge

            maninahat says:

            I lost two comments yesterday – one in this article and one in the Sunday Papers. Didn’t seem to have any problems at the time…

          • Eclipse says:

            We are going to do a bigger standalone version, yes. And no sir, you can’t throw money at me because it will be free! But we’re working on another project that will need kickstarter and we’re going to offer that as free bonus so you’ll have your occasion to help us :)
            You guys have made my day, I’m so happy someone got some of references and finds the game fun.
            Hugs!

  4. kyynis says:

    Anodyne PWYW at Promo Bay: http://www.anodynegame.com/tpb.html
    1.76$ minimum at the moment, 2.68$ for premium version with soudtrack

    It’s good.

    EDIT: Damn, this was supposed to go in Bargain Bucket post. Deleting…

  5. zokier says:

    Could we get separate sections for interactive fiction -style games and “normal” games? I don’t particularly mind IF being posted here, but it doesn’t interest me personally so it’s bit annoying to decipher for each entry if it is IF or a game.

    • Koozer says:

      Could we get separate sections for platformer -style games and “normal” games? I don’t particularly mind platformers being posted here, but they don’t interest me personally so it’s bit annoying to decipher for each entry if it is a platformer or a game.

      • Riley Lungmus says:

        Yeah, could we?

        Or maybe just delineate what sort of game it might be?

        I think we might all agree to call them ‘Genres,’ right? That sound good to everyone?

        We could have specific genres relate to the content of the game. The style in which it’s played? Maybe the camera angle in which it’s presented?

        Right, moving ahead.

  6. Triplanetary says:

    Text has a dry reputation but the stuff I’ve seen in the last year is so alive and expressive.

    Gotta disagree. Text’s dry reputation isn’t actually earned, it’s just a perception by people who are too ignorant/lazy/disinterested to explore what’s out there. All these three-minute-long Twine games popping up lately are usually created in isolation of the larger oeuvre of quality IF that’s built up over the past few decades, and it shows. It’s like a book written by somebody who doesn’t read books.

    I’m not talking about Christine Love by any means, however. Christine Love is fantastic.

  7. Knightley4 says:

    “400 years” is a very sweet game, perfect for my mood. Say, is there a word for such type of music? I know, you can probably call it ethnic music, but from which part of the world? I really want something similar in my playlist (i also remember something similar in Avatar: Last Airbender)

    • Triplanetary says:

      I know, you can probably call it ethnic music

      Yes, because there are only two types of humans, after all, white and ethnic. ^_^ Anyway, I know jackshit about music myself so I can’t tell you much, except that the guy who wrote the music for the game is here so you can poke around his site if you’re curious I guess.

      • Eddy9000 says:

        To be fair ‘world music’ is a commonly used genre category that basically means ‘ethnic music’, so perhaps cut the guy a little slack.

    • Donjo says:

      Seems like a bit of a mixture from different kinds of music. Kind of Peruvian… there’s sort of a panpipe thing there. It really resembles the soundtrack for Werner Herzogs Into the Abyss, although that’s a bit more brooding http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIsO8vNUd3s

      Edit: Triplanetary- to be fair, a lot of people would label anything non-western and traditional or indigenous music as “ethnic”… blame record company genre classification

  8. Bhazor says:

    Even Cowgirls Bleed is a great little thing. Even if I can’t help but read it in Applejacks voice.

    AJ’s just my current go to voice for any “cowgirl”. 10 years ago it would have been Cat Ballou.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      Immediately commencing play.

      • Premium User Badge

        Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        Well, that went horribly wrong. And reading it in Applejack’s voice gave it a whole different, and creepy, feel.

        • TCM says:

          Oh god now you’ve infected my brain with that reading too, curse you Bhazoooooor!

          • Phantoon says:

            Luckily for me, I am no brony, and do not have any idea what that sounds like, so my experience of said game shall not be maligned.

      • Dozer says:

        This This is completely off-topic, but Lord Custard, do you have a blog/Twitter account? All I could find after literally fifteen seconds of googling was your Kerbal Space Program diary, which is brilliant. In a perfect world you’d be contributing game diaries to RPS and getting paid fir them.

        • microminiature says:

          Agreed, and now I have something new to read (Kerbal diary).

        • Premium User Badge

          Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          That’s good of you to say, old chap. I find I write more these days as I gradually trick my butler into doing the work that keeps Lady Smingleigh in diamond necklaces, and I should probably look into having one centralised place to put it all so others can find it. As you say, a “blog”, since standing on street corners selling pages of my words for tuppence has turned out to be a dull and chilly way to spend my time.

          Here’s my KSP diary, for anyone intrigued enough to read it.

          And now, after an evening of frantic typing, I now have a blog! Please feel free to enter Lord Custard Smingleigh’s Blogging Parlour at your pleasure.

  9. Phenomen says:

    Depression Quest is nice but linear.

  10. MondSemmel says:

    Swift Stitch is a great little game. In fact, Sophie Houlden originally sold it but has apparently made it available for free now.
    It’s a one button (or at least a mouse only) reaction game, which makes a nice change to games like Super Meat Boy that require you to be glued to your keyboard…
    And if I remember correctly, it has lots of accessibility options (like adjusting the game speed), so the game is suited for quite a broad audience.
    Now that it’s available for free, give it a try. You’ll know within moments if you’ll like playing it.

  11. Eukatheude says:

    Depression Quest is really good, i really can relate. I wanted to try Positive Space but detailed physical descriptions make me feel dizzy. Happens on wikipedia articles, medical stuff etc. too.

  12. SkittleDiddler says:

    So, from the screenshot posted here, I can assume that Positive Space is about pegging?

    • Low Life says:

      Nope, it’s about something that’s apparently called muffing (as described in the ‘best’ definition of the word on Urban Dictionary).

      • Phantoon says:

        I’m glad I don’t have to deal with any of that because even the sex is confusing. I had to look up what an interguinal canal was, and I still don’t understand.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Okay, that’s just fucked up.

        • Phantoon says:

          I think once you accept things getting weird, you drop the right to pass judgement until they’re actually disgusting, like necrophilia, and other horrible things.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            Good point.

          • Premium User Badge

            jrodman says:

            I accept that I have no place to pass judgement here. However, I do find this concept more than slightly unnerving.

            Of course I also find ear piercing slightly unnerving.

  13. Dozer says:

    just like Cara said I didn’t expect to earn $52999965 per month watching YouTube videos from home on my laptop. Which is just as well, since I was paid nothing. But watching all those videos lets me compare the golem character from 400 Years with this guy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXWT2qQ9Huk

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      Why are you posing as a spambot?

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        NEVER NOT SPAM
        ePhone 5, bargains – much cheapness!
        Accept the paypal

      • Phantoon says:

        HOLY SHIT FORGET THAT HE’S A SPAMBOT FOR A SECOND. $52999965!! THAT’S FIFTY TWO MILLION DOLLARS! WHAT THE FUCK?!

        • Dozer says:

          I should said something like $1873 a month. Anyway, a) I am not a spambot, b) I hadn’t had much sleep when I posted this. Perhaps I thought, if i’m going to post a link to a completely pointless video which just wastes every viewer’s time, it’s a bit appropriate to dress in the clothing of a spambot. I don’t know!

          • Premium User Badge

            Bluerps says:

            I think the usual amount is somewhere between $4000 and $5000. Still utterly ridiculous, but at least it’s only four digits. Funny thing is, what made me take at closer look at your post was not the money, but the fact that you used the name “Cara”.

  14. kwyjibo says:

    Tried playing a bit of depression quest earlier today – I obviously don’t have the correct empathy circuits. I got the “player hating himself” bit, but it just made we hate the player character and long for a suicide option so I didn’t have to deal with their shit.

    If you are feeling depressed, do not talk to me, it will not do you good.

  15. Cooper says:

    My long term partner suffers from depression, as did my ex. I’ve never managed to understand it. Do my best to help, sure, but never got any idea of what it’s like. So I play games like Depression Quest, and other games that have dealt with the subject, read recommended literature. etc. I still don’t understand.

    Depression Quest’s internal monologue is deeply self-centered. All it does is confim my suspiscion that depression is, at its core, a horrificly narcissistic situation. Maybe not a vanity narcissim, but certainly conceited and certainly selfish.

    In fact the core mechanic of Depression Quest is selfishness. The game is built around denying you any self-less choices. Any choice that would momentarily acknowledge the world doesn’t centre upon the narrator. Not a moment goes by that is not an introverted reflection.

    The first person narrations of Depression Quest is one of an inflated sense of self importance. Self importance so inflated that the result is paralysis. Is that depression? Seems like failed egoism to me.

    • MondSemmel says:

      It’s mental illness. No matter which mental illness, in some sense you are always stuck in your head. In that case, I guess one could call it being self-centered, but that probably does more harm than good – blaming the victim and all that.

      In fact, I never understand when that happens in comments: Surely even if depression means being (a certain kind of) self-centered, looking down upon and lacking empathy for those who suffer from mental illness is even more self-centered? After all, the attitude is basically “I feel perfectly fine, so mental illness can’t be real/all that bad.”. Or, alternatively, “The suffering is all in your head. Let me tell you about my real problems in the real world instead.”.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        One of the curses of depression is feeling compelled to make people who are incapable of listening, understand. Its worth learning that with some folks you have to just leave them alone to their less-than-educated views, no matter how infuriatingly invalidating, and instead find others who you can form mutual, supportive relationships with.

        Trying to get the deaf to hear is a major curse to be avoided for those with mental illness.

    • zeekthegeek says:

      I think the point it’s strying to make is that it is hard to make positive choices in life when you are depressed or suffering an anxiety disorder – which is absolutely true in my experience. More than just normal, it really does paralyze your mind a lot of the time. Who isn’t self-important in their own internal narrative, anyway? I’ve never met the person.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      No wonder your partner is depressed — you’re apparently an asshole.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      It’s chemical, dude. You can’t understand it because this isn’t some philosophy. It’s chemical, and though it is self-centered, it can’t be avoided due to chemistry.

    • C0llic says:

      Depression is exactly like that, but for someone who is genuinely clinically depressed, they aren’t able to break those patterns themselves. Most therapy centres on helping the person shift their attentions elsewhere and analyse situations in a more measured, logical way. To think ‘normally’, like people who don’t suffer from those disorders. CBT is one of the most popular ways of treating depression and anxiety these days (usually supported by medication).

      To say it’s Narcissism shows a complete lack of understanding and makes you sound very ignorant. People who find themselves locked in patterns of horrible, circular, damaging thoughts need help to break out of that. That’s the point the game is making – and that’s reason you don’t have the option to take an ‘unselfish’ view of what’s going on.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        I would agree, and add the following:

        Narcissism can actually be a separate disorder in its own right if taken to the extreme – Narcissistic Personality Disorder is one of the Axis II diagnoses identified in the DSM, though is often challenged as a diagnostic entity. SOME people with depression can have narcissistic or grandiose coping styles, however this is a subset of people with depression, in much the same way as “healthy” people can have narcissistic tendencies. You are just as likely to find a person who is depressed who is utterly self sacrificing and people-pleasing, as one who is self-focused.

        However, even the concepts being talked about here are extremely outdated now. Most people know about CBT and anti-depressants, but the current state of the art has moved way past these. Therapies are now hugely integrative, and the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory is seen as an outmoded and unproven hypothesis. As evidenced by the increasingly complex personality models developed by Theodore Millon, and which supplanted the aging (but more widely known) Myers-Briggs subtypes, as well as the Schema Model developed by Jeffrey Young, mental illnesses are seen as being Nature WITH Nurture, complex interactions of psychological, interpersonal, biological, societal, behavioural, emotional, experiential, cognitive, genetic and evolutionary factors.

        No two depressions are the same because no two people are the same. Sadly this means there is no one “answer” to depression – it will be different for each individual and involve a number of elements.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Hypocee says:

    Story, game. Essay, game. Frankly, for the last week or so, op-ed, game. I thought this site was about games, the title of the article seems to say it’s about games. It’s cute that we’re posting up people’s forum-posts-laboriously-made-llaborious-to-read now, I guess, but I wonder if they could go into their own, say, Stories Or Mostly Not Even Stories That I Like, or Shunday Shmapers.

    • Tagiri says:

      Can you explain to the rest of us how 400 Years and Swift Stitch aren’t games?

      • The Random One says:

        What, you honestly want him to WASTE TIME by perusing THINGS THAT SO OBVIOUSLY AREN’T GAMES to find out that his hastily assembled preconceptions about this column are wrong? People who are perusing a free indie games column have way too strict schedules for that.

  17. The Random One says:

    So… was there some sort of violent queer cowgirl jam lately? Not that I’m complaining. In fact, Violent Queer Cowgirl Jam is the character class I play in all games.

    I saw 400 years on the comments of last week’s LFPH and am now read to try to go for the rumored SECRET ENDING.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Incidentally, Violent Queer Cowgirl Jam is also the name of my solo project.

    • JackShandy says:

      The Jam perk is a solid choice that has a lot of synergy with the Queer subclass, but the wiki suggests that you’ll get more DPS with a Trans Robot.

  18. Koozer says:

    Wait, is blocking up the volcano really the presumably “good” ending to 400 years? That golem needs to read up on his geology.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Toupee says:

    Positive Space was really, really interesting. I went and read issue 0 of that zine. What an eye opener!

  20. ZCAvian says:

    Depression Quest hit way too close to home for me. The path I went through it – I’m not sure how much you can actually change what happens, I only played it once so far – mirrored a lot of the events in my life this past year.

    I know that’s a coincidence, but it’s very unsettling…

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      I don’t know either how much you can change, but you can at least get to an optimistic ending, in which the main character has learned ways to fight his depression through therapy and medication.

  21. Phantoon says:

    Has SS13 ever been featured in one of these? It’s quite the thing.